Email correspondence leaked this week indicating the extent of the Guptas’ control over Cabinet ministers and state-owned entities has reportedly connected Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and the family to an Indian businessman arrested in his home country on charges of money laundering.
Parasmal Lodha, according to a Business Day report, travelled with Zwane and a number of Gupta family members and associates in their private jet to Switzerland and India with Rajesh Gupta and associate Salim Essa in December 2015.
Zwane, who has been linked to the controversial family in several reports, confirmed in May last year that he had travelled to Switzerland on an official trip in 2015 in parliamentary questions, but denied allegations that he had gone on a Gupta-related trip to the European country in January 2016 to negotiate the purchase of the Optimum coalmine from Glencore.
Lodha has previously attended the family’s weddings, and can be strongly linked to Denel’s contested joint venture with Gupta-linked VR Laser Asia, Business Day reported.
“In one of the emails about the Denel joint venture‚ Lodha refers to changes that needed to be made to an agreement, as it proposed that ‘holding company partner Sri Anil Gupta will have the ability to vote directly in the operating company’.
“Lodha said this was because the operating company was the joint venture company with Adani‚ one of the potential partners‚ and a direct vote by an individual shareholder was not permitted by law. This was also contrary to the agreement‚ he said,” the report stated.
Lodha is said to be out on bail after he was arrested in a money-laundering probe in two high-profile black money cases in the wake of demonetisation in India. He is alleged to have been involved in the illegal conversion of more than 250 million rupees ($3.87m) in old currency into new notes.
Suitcase containing ‘suspicious items’
In May 2015, Lodha is reportedly travelled with the Guptas and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane from the Oppenheimers’ Fireblade terminal at the OR Tambo airport. Rajesh Gupta and Essa were apparently among 13 passengers who were travelling to Mauritius at the time.
Earlier this year in February, Business Day reported that Fireblade had cut ties with the Guptas following an incident involving a suitcase containing “suspicious items” on to one of its aircraft. Sources with knowledge of the matter told the paper the suitcase was suspected of containing diamonds, but this has been denied by the family.